Targeting weekly waiver picks is a completely subjective business,
but this column hopes to point out some obvious and not-so-obvious
selections that will help your team from week to week while you
strive to collect fantasy wins, reach your league playoffs, and
win the elusive title that your friends say is out of your grasp.
While I’m just as big a proponent of making trades to bolster
your roster, the waiver wire can be an almost limitless resource
when it comes to discovering fantasy value in strange places. Each
week, I’ll target players that may be available in shallow
leagues – sometimes just breakout stars that eluded your team’s
draft – as well as players who can help your squad that will
still be available in most deeper leagues.
Off The Top
Philip Rivers, SD – If
you are in a QB-heavy league and you had the foresight to pick
this guy up as one of your backups, I salute you. With the solidity
of the Chargers running game, this guys isn’t going to be
asked to fire aimlessly into opposing defenses, but he will rack
up TD passes inside the Red Zone. If he’s available in your
league and you need a replacement for Aaron Brooks, you shouldn’t
need any more provoking after Monday night. I’ll take 8-for-11,
108 yards and a touchdown over 6-for-14, 68 yards and a goose
egg all day long.
Chad Pennington, NYJ –
Now, he’s probably not available in most leagues, but if
he is, he’s worth scooping up with the emergence of Jerricho
Cotchery and a surprisingly potent Jets offense. Pennington’s
numbers (24-33, 319, 2-0) were good enough for a 123.2 QB rating
and a win in
Week 1. His next three games: New England, Buffalo and Indy. Hop
Jay Cutler, DEN – Now
here’s a guy who most likely eluded even some of the wily
fantasy vets in your neck of the woods, considering the inexplicable
propensity people have for selecting Jake Plummer. Well, I guess
it’s not TOTALLY inexplicable – he does seem to blow
up for five or six big games each year. But given Cutler’s
astoundingly sharp preseason and Shanahan’s itchy trigger
finger, I don’t think it will be long before Cutler gets
his shot and makes everybody forget all about Jake the Snake a
la 2001’s Drew Bledsoe-Tom Brady revelation.
Rex Grossman, CHI – For
now, Brian Griese and Kyle Orton remain at the back of the bus
watching Napoleon Dynamite toss action figures out the window.
Sure, eventually, they’ll get to class and the teacher will
call their name, but the last time I checked, a 98.6 QB rating
never got anybody benched.
Jon Kitna, DET – No TDs
last week, but that’s bound to change when the Lions start
to click. The defense is obviously ahead of schedule, and that
will mean more opportunities against teams not from Seattle. Roy
Williams, Corey Bradford and Kevin Jones are solid weapons that
will yield dividends for Mr. Kitna, who doesn’t need a lot
of swanky stars to make things happen.
Brad Johnson, MIN – The
numbers weren’t that impressive, but something tells me
we’re in for another solid year out of Not-Too-Bad Brad.
In nine starts last year, Johnson passed for 1885 yards, had 12
TDs and just 4 INTs. Not #1 QB-worthy, but if you’re hitting
up the waiver wire for a #1 Fantasy QB, you might as well chalk
up your season.
Scouring The Barrel
Charlie Batch, PIT –
Having Batch down here in the barrel means three things. First,
I’m counting on him getting scooped up prematurely by whomever
drafted Ben Roethlisberger. Second, he’s not as good as
his 3-TD performance against Miami on Thursday night, and third,
he’s still probably worth a shot because he plays for the
Super Bowl champs. ‘Nuff said.
Alex Smith, SF – While
taking a QB who just threw for 288 yards and a TD can hardly be
considered scouring the barrel, Mr. Smith had the benefit of being
in a shootout with Arizona. Let’s not forget his numbers
from 2005 (1 TD, 11 INTs) which are bound to have some impact
on his 2006 stats. I’ll give the kids 15 TDs and 20 INTs
over the course of the season, which is hardly worth a roster
spot in most leagues.
Damon Huard, KC – With
Trent Green out for at least one more game, there’s a possibility
Huard could post decent fantasy numbers next week, but I wouldn’t
count on it. Since Marc Bulger and they Rams couldn’t crack
the end zone last week versus Denver (much to the delight of Jeff
Wilkins owners everywhere) I highly doubt Damon Huard will be
much more successful, even taking into account his palpable rapport
with Tony Gonzalez.
Off The Top
Tatum Bell, DEN – This
is kind of an obvious one, but who knows if the preseason propaganda
on Flavor-of-the-Month Mike Bell reached Ministry of Information
proportions in your league? I’m not insulting your intelligence,
I’m just saying, go get him if he’s there.
Laurence Maroney, NE –
Things are apparently changing shape a bit in New England, and
Maroney’s gonna reap the benefits. Although he’s another
guy that is probably not available in your league, I’m sure
he got by a few people worried about an early injury and Corey
Jerious Norwood, ATL –
While Warrick Dunn has gone from veritable fantasy limbo to wonderful
new heights, Norwood is a no-brainer handcuff for the Dirty Birds
backfield. These guys run the ball and run it often, and if anything
should happen to Dunn (and it always does) he’s the man
Brandon Jacobs, NYG –
He’s usually a handcuff selection by whomever has Tiki Barber,
but if Jacobs managed to elude your league’s drafters, I’d
grab him ASAP. Eight rushes for 54 yards and a score is all you’ll
need out of a backup RB, and if anything ever happened to Tiki,
Brandon’s torch would be lit.
Travis Henry, TEN – I
said it before and I’ll say it again. Chris Brown should
stick to making decent R&B hits and driving hip-hop groupies
Correll Buckhalter, PHI –
I would never draft this guy, and I hope nobody that you know
actually did. But if he proves himself as a solid contributor
from week to week, he could be a worthy pickup since he’s
probably the man if Westbrook goes down.
Scouring The Barrel
Michael Turner, SD –
Tomlinson’s backup got plenty of garbage time in the fourth
quarter against the Raiders, but you’ll be hard-pressed
to start him with LT healthy. As a handcuff, he’s essential.
But if he got by your draft and you want trade fodder for the
LT owner in your league, grab him and get in that guy’s
Anthony Thomas, BUF –
He was once a fantasy stud who seemed to disappear before our
eyes without much explanation. Now he’s a capable short-yardage,
goalline and third down back who grabbed 29 yard and a touchdown
on three carries and 2 catches for 16 yards while Willis McGahee
got his ankle taped during what eventually became a bizarre loss
to New England. If Willie Mac gets dinged up, and A-Train’s
facing a weak defense, you could do a lot worse.
J.J. Arrington, ARI –
Edgerrin James isn’t the most durable back in the NFL, and
he tends to take a couple weeks off here and there due to injury.
While many of you undoubtedly have endured frustration with Arrington
in the past, he’s a good handcuff for Edge and since he’s
staying involved on special teams, he’s probably chomping
at the bit for an opportunity to shine. Just putting that out
Off The Top
Deion Branch, SEA – This
guy made it through the draft in one of my leagues. After the
trade to Seattle, he won’t make it “Through the Wire”
like my boy Kanye.
Antonio Bryant, SF –
Not available in most leagues, but an obvious selection in those
where he is. He’s always been a young, talented threat,
but now he’s the most mature player on a offense full of
babies. Expect Alex Smith to look his way all year long.
Drew Bennett, TEN – Despite
the gaudy numbers he’s put up during the waning weeks of
years past, I know there are folks who avoided this guy on draft
day because of the situation in Tennessee and the presence of
David Givens. Well guess what? Kerry Collins seems to love him
more than Mardi Gras.
Desmond Clark, CHI –
He used to be a stalwart TE on lots of fantasy teams, and although
he’s the man in Chi-town, most preseason rankings didn’t
place him any higher than the 25th best TE. With 5 catches for
77 yards on Sunday, he’s worth a look.
Jerricho Cotchery, NYJ –
I’ll take 6-65-1 every week from my #3 receiver, and so
should you. Those won’t be his numbers every week, but he’s
capable of even better given the right matchup. He’s a Jet
and he’s not that big, but neither was Wayne Chrebet.
Reggie Williams, JAX –
All I heard during the draft was Matt Jones, and all I heard in
the days leading up to Week 1 was Ernest Wilford. But Byron Leftwich
found a decent safety valve in Williams versus Dallas on Sunday,
and Reggie’s bound to be just as involved in the offense
during the coming weeks after a 6-47-1 performance.
Scouring The Barrel
Wes Welker, MIA – Nobody
had this guy in their top 100, and nobody thought Culpepper would
look his way. But he grabbed a few catches
Bobby Wade, TEN – A bust
in Chicago, Wade isn’t the kind of guy you base your receiving
corps around. But he has good games here and there, he grabbed
five balls for 76 yards on Sunday, and if you’re desperate,
he might be an OK fill-in at some point down the road.
Off The Top
LB DeMeco Ryans, HOU –
A fantasy stud-in-waiting. If this animal is available, grab him
and thank me later. You saw the numbers from the Philly game,
and while he was listed as a Tier 5 LB in most preseason rankings,
he’s destined for Tier 2 or 3 by the year’s end. Think
Jamie Sharper in his prime.
LB Lemar Marshall, WAS –
Sure, he’s been hyped by some, but I’m sure there
were folks that gambled on Marcus Washington over Marshall and
hoped fate would smile. She didn’t and it’s time to
get Lemar before somebody else does.
LB D'Qwell Jackson, CLE –
Another rookie LB that eluded many IDPers on draft day, Jackson
is just the kind of guy that emerges with a solid 7-10 tackles
and the occasional breakout game. He’s undersized, but that
doesn’t mean he won’t supply a Dexter Coakley-like
presence that’s desperately needed on the Browns defense.
LB Thomas Howard, OAK –
The rookie linebackers just keep on coming, and Howard was one
of the lone bright spots for the Raiders on a Monday night they
all want to forget. My died-in-the-wool Raider fan brother-in-law
has stated he is officially a Ravens fan until Al Davis dies.
Howard, however, is stuck with the Raiders but should get lots
of opportunities as the Oakland offense can only stay on the field
for 35-40 second intervals before the opposing team takes over.
And since it’s basically one incomplete pass after another,
the only times that ticks off the clock is after a sack.
LB Bart Scott, BAL –
He’s going to fight for tackles in a defense that features
a slew of studs, but he’s also going to get to the quarterback
a few times like he did on Sunday versus Tampa Bay, and that only
leads to big plays and more points. If he’s still available,
you should take a shot.
Scouring The Barrel
DB Chris Hope, TEN –
A five-year veteran who gave up lots of tackles to Troy Polamalu
in Pittsburgh, Hope made an immediate impact in his first opportunity
with Tennessee. Whatever Keith Bulluck doesn’t run down,
Chris Hope will.
DB O.J. Atogwe, STL –
This guy had 11 tackles throughout 2005 before getting his first
start on Sunday for the Rams at home in St. Louis. I’m a
big believer in the fantasy potential of no-name DBs, and this
guy had 7 tackles and a fumble recovery in his first opportunity,
so he’s worth a look.